Sakamoto Junji

Aaron Gerow gerow
Wed Apr 21 22:18:43 EDT 1999

>Can those who know Sakamoto's work offer some brief comment?

Love to comment.

Sakamoto is one of my favorite current directors, one who, since he has 
concentrated on "entertainment," has tended to be ignored by foreign 
festivals.  This is slowly changing: an Italian festival (which one?) did 
show some of his works; _The Goofball_, his latest, has shown at a number 
of places; and the Japan Foundation has English subtitled prints of most 
of his films.

I will in fact be showing _The Goofball_ in my YNU class in July and 
Sakamoto will be coming to talk about it.  He's kind of amused about 
coming since YNU is his "alma mater" (though he only spent half a year 
here).  (By the way, he's the best director to come out of YNU--a sly 
swipe at Iwai Shunji).

One of the most interesting aspects of his work has been the effort to do 
documentary in entertainment fiction films.  All of his boxing films star 
real boxers and some, like _Dotsuitarunen_ and _Boxer Joe_, have the 
boxers basically playing themselves in situations based on their real 
life.  This rarely descends to "docudrama" seriousness (his boxers are 
more affable than stoic heroes), but effectively use the "reality" factor 
to bolster the impact and explore the grounds of cinematic fiction.  
Interestingly, his producer, Shii Yukiko, comes out of documentary.

Sakamoto's films are distinctly "masculine" works, not just because they 
focus on sports topics like boxing (which are not necessarily masculine), 
but because the male point of view dominates, so much so that a film like 
_Tokarev_, which I don't like but respect, verges on the misogynist.  The 
male centeredness in the most recent films has taken an interesting turn  
as Sakamoto has begun exploring the homosociality of the male buddy film. 
 (Also interestingly, everyone working at Kino, his production company, 
is a woman.)

His Osaka films are still my favorites, with _Ote_ and _Billiken_ coming 
out on top.  In treating Osaka, he's successfully taken the crude world 
view of his "shisho" Itsutsu Kazuyuki, without rendering it either 
manzai-esque or nostalgic.

Aaron Gerow
Associate Professor
International Student Center
Yokohama National University
79-1 Tokiwadai
Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501
E-mail: gerow at
Phone: 81-45-339-3170
Fax: 81-45-339-3171

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